Under pressure, cabinet said mulling concessions ahead of meeting on postwar Gaza

As ministers set to convene, security officials reportedly consider start of war’s next phase as right time to let north Gaza residents return home, allow aid via Erez Crossing

Israeli soldiers check an Egyptian truck carrying humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip, at the Kerem Shalom Crossing, December 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
Israeli soldiers check an Egyptian truck carrying humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip, at the Kerem Shalom Crossing, December 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

Facing growing international pressure, Israel is considering several potential concessions for Gaza ahead of a Thursday cabinet meeting to discuss how to handle the Strip after the ongoing war, Hebrew media reported Wednesday and Thursday.

Security officials have posited that Israel will not be able to prevent northern Gaza residents from returning to their homes as the next stage of lower-intensity fighting in the war with Hamas begins, according to Channel 13 news.

Unnamed sources cited by the network said that in talks, Israel Defense Forces officials were pegging the next phase of the war as the right time to allow hundreds of thousands of displaced residents of the devastated northern part of the Gaza Strip to return home.

Meanwhile, the Haaretz daily reported Thursday morning that Israel was considering allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza through the Erez Crossing in the enclave’s north, as well as through an opening in the fence near Kibbutz Be’eri, which the IDF has been using to facilitate movement of troops in and out of the Strip.

Thus far, aid has been transferred mainly through the Rafah Crossing from Egypt and, after it was opened last month, the nearby Kerem Shalom Crossing from Israel. According to Haaretz, this has prevented most of the humanitarian aid from reaching the north, where there are still some 200,000 residents.

Israel has been facing increasing international pressure to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza. Before the war began, some 500 trucks of aid were making it into Gaza daily, but after the war broke out, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged that no aid or fuel would make it into the Strip. The government later backtracked, and currently, some 100 trucks enter the Strip daily.

Palestinians line up for a free meal in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Thursday, December 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

Calls to increase aid have come from various countries as well as the United Nations, which has called the volume of aid making it into Gaza “woefully inadequate.”

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller echoed the sentiment on Wednesday, saying that the number of trucks carrying aid into Gaza “needs to go up dramatically, and needs to stay up.”

Israel has repeatedly said it can inspect much more aid than international agencies are providing, blaming UN shortfalls for the current deficit.

Amid the rising pressure, Jerusalem also said on Sunday that it was willing to allow ships to deliver aid from Cyprus immediately. The cargo would be inspected in the Cypriot port of Larnaca and then enter Gaza from the coast rather than through Egypt.

The cabinet was preparing Thursday to discuss what Gaza will look like after the war, with a series of suggestions on the table. Netanyahu and other coalition leaders have repeatedly said that they will not hand over control of the Strip to the Palestinian Authority, but the prime minister has said that Israel has no intention of governing Gaza itself, beyond maintaining control of security.

The United States has backed the PA being included in the governance of postwar Gaza, a plan vehemently opposed by Netanyahu’s far-right coalition allies. This disagreement has caused the cabinet meeting on postwar plans to be delayed several times.

Channel 12 news reported last week that Israel was also planning on ousting the UN agency for Palestinian refugees and their descendants, UNRWA, from the Gaza Strip due to its alleged cooperation with Hamas.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a government conference at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv on December 31, 2023. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Reports on Wednesday said that security officials were going to propose a plan by which Palestinian clans would temporarily administer different areas of Gaza, taking responsibility for civil needs and the distribution of humanitarian aid.

War erupted in Gaza after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing over 240 hostages of all ages — mostly civilians — under the cover of a deluge of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities.

In response, Israel vowed to eliminate Hamas, and launched a wide-scale offensive aimed at rooting out the Palestinian terror organization’s military and governance capabilities. The offensive has drawn international reproach for its mounting death toll, with the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza reporting over 22,000 Palestinians dead. However, these figures cannot be verified and are believed to include both terrorists and civilians, some killed by misfired Palestinian rockets.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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